How can you stop feeling fat after you lose the weight?
Is it normal to look in the mirror and still see that old version of you staring back?
Can you change that?
Of course you can. But, first, you must understand why it happens in the first place.
Is It Normal to Feel Fat After Weight Loss?
For years, you saw that heavier version of you staring back in the mirror and dreamed of becoming this lighter version. Now, you are there and just see the same you as before. What gives?
Your brain, that’s what gives. It can be normal to see that version of yourself if you have not yet taken the time to retrain your brain. Our brains are very smart and go to previous connections unconsciously.
Just like wearing those old clothes that everyone else is starting to tell you are WAY too big. We see it but ignore it because convenience is so much easier, right? Easier for our brains maybe but not better for our futures. Especially when those old habits and perceived versions of ourselves push us back to the actual old version of us – emotional eating and weight regain.
Why Some Feel Fat After Weight Loss and Others Don’t
Let’s take a look at my husband to illustrate this point. My husband is one of those people who sees himself as thinner than he is. Do you have one of those, too? He didn’t start emotional eating until well into his 40s. He hates pictures because he sees himself as “thin” and then the photos jolt that reality.
Compare that to me: I saw myself as always struggling with weight. My emotional eating started in middle school and my mind went to the fat version of me every time.
Think about that for a minute. Why would one person, my own husband, think he is thinner than his current weight and another, me, only see heavy when she looks in the mirror?
It has nothing to do with the scale – and everything to do with our perceived versions of ourselves. My husband was always thin. He SEES himself as thin. And, because of that, his mind will go to the thin version every time.
I, on the other hand, saw (that has changed mostly) myself as heavy and would notice everything that supported that belief I already had about myself. And the more we reinforce those beliefs, the stronger they become.
How Other People Reinforce Your Fat Identity
Other people can reinforce those negative self-beliefs as well. But maybe not in the way you think. Here’s the thing: we only believe others if we believe it ourselves already.
Picture someone coming up to you and saying, “You are too thin. You really need to gain weight.” Would you suddenly start believing that? No way.
There is NO weight that I could reach that would make me believe that. It is unbelievable to me because it is completely outside of the beliefs I have about myself. I would be much more inclined to think that they are crazy than believe that they would actually think I am underweight. You with me there?
What if instead someone came up to you and said, “You really could use to lose a few more pounds” even if you are already at your goal weight. Would you believe that to be true? For me, heck yeah.
There is no minimum weight, for me, that someone could challenge that I would not accept as reality. Because so much of my identity has been my weight for years.
Others simply reinforce what we already believe about ourselves. And that reinforcement can send us right back to that former emotional eating, fat girl identity we have worked so hard to change.
Does Your Childhood Have Anything to Do with It?
Maybe. Many of our brain patterns come from our beliefs about ourselves that first developed in childhood. And those can be the most ingrained beliefs about ourselves. That’s why my husband, who was always thin, still thinks of himself as thin despite growing evidence to the contrary. I’ll just leave that one there before I really get in trouble.
Is Feeling Fat The Same as Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
It is important to understand that the “feeling fat” that I am not describing is not body dysmorphic disorder. The Doctor in me feels the need to clarify as this is frequently lumped together under the tag “phantom fat.”
Body dysmorphic disorder is by definition perceived flaws in your appearance that others see as minor or not even present. People who struggle with body dysmorphic disorder have a mental health disorder that causes them to focus on these flaws. They seek check and recheck themselves and their flaws. They frequently seek medical attention for these perceived flaws.
Unlike body dysmorphic disorder, most of my clients and patients who can’t stop feeling fat despite weight loss don’t want to look in the mirror. They do not believe this to be a medical problem or something to seek medical treatment for because this is NORMAL for them. They are not fixated on a small physical flaw but instead assume this is just “who they are.”
If you feel that the definition of body dysmorphic disorder fits your symptoms, I would recommend seeing your Doctor for further treatment options. More information can be found at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353938#:~:text=Body%20dysmorphic%20disorder%20is%20a,may%20avoid%20many%20social%20situations.
How to Stop Feeling Fat After Weight Loss
Let’s get started matching your thoughts and beliefs about your new body to your weight loss results with 3 simple steps:
Step #1: Take some time to look at your new body
So many of us that struggle with weight avoid looking at ourselves. We have spent years avoiding mirrors and photos. And we continue to envision worst case scenarios because of that.
Start by retraining your brain to match your current looks:
- Stand in front of the mirror and write out your thoughts as they arise
- Look at your face first – your eyes, your nose, your smile
- Then look at your neckline, your chest, your arms
- Move to your abdomen, your back, your bottom
- Finish with your legs and feet
Step #2: Change those negative thoughts
Now here’s the trick. ANY answer that you found to be negative, turn into the positive version instead. For example: “I see fat legs that jiggle.” Change that to whatever feels realistic for you to believe. I like “I see strong legs that carry me through life.”
If that is too far, start with simply “I see human legs.” Just take the fat out. You can continue to work toward believing the positive with time. Don’t allow any negative adjectives to slip in.
Step #3: Repeat Weekly
Repeat weekly these positive thoughts while standing in front of the mirror weekly – or daily if you are ready. We are working on resetting brain patterns and that may take a bit of time. The good news is that once they reset and you believe them, the emotional eating fat girl version of you will disappear in front of your eyes.
With time, your vision of yourself will grow to match all of that hard work you have done to get to the healthier version of you. And that is beautiful.
For More Posts on Emotional Eating, check out: https://doctormome.com/post/why-you-really-cant-stick-to-your-diet/ https://doctormome.com/post/what-is-weight-loss-coaching/